One of the oldest motorsport events in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a legendary endurance race and arguably the purest form of racing. It tests the limits of endurance of man and machine alike. It’s a race where everyone and everything from the load bearing capabilities of a lug-nut to the efficiency of the pit crew are tested over 24 hours as cars run at their limit non-stop to cover the maximum distance in a bid to be crowned the king of the legendary 24 Heures du Mans. It’s a race where lines between finishing and winning are often blurred to a recognisable degree. And the twists and turns in the tale are akin to that of a Hitchcock movie as we the spectators of the 85th edition of the 24 Heures du Mans found out.
This year’s race was a testament to perseverance and the will to never give up. This year saw a total of 60 entrants spread over four classes; LMP1, LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE AM. India’s former F1 driver Karun Chandhok was also among the entrants racing a Ligier JS P217-Gibson for Tockwith Motorsports in the LMP2 class.
The hopes in the Toyota garage were high thanks to Kamui Kobayashi’s blistering lap record at the Circuit de la Sarthe in his #7 TS050. Toyota hoped to finally clinch a Le Mans victory after last year’s upset where the Gazoo Toyota stopped just 300m short of the finishing line due to technical trouble on the very last lap.
Kobayashi was in the lead from the word go but at the strike of the 10th hour of the race, disaster struck for the Japanese manufacturer when Kobayashi’s TS050 developed clutch trouble and he was unable to nurse the car back to the pits and had to retire from the race. And minutes later the #9 Toyota of Nicholas Lapierre collided with the #25 Monor Oreca taking them both out at the Dunlop Bridge. Though Lapierre did try to nurse the car back to the garage despite a blown rear left tyre, a small fire at the rear end of the car finally brought the car to a halt. The best result for Toyota this year was 9th overall in the #8 TS050 driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson.
The race was won by Porsche 919 Hybrid but that is another story entirely. After Toyota’s retirement, the #1 Porsche 919 LMP1-h was pushed into the lead whereas the #2 919 was running in 55th position, at the back of the pack owing to losing over an hour and 18 laps near the 5th hour owing to transaxle troubles. The #1 Porsche meanwhile pulled out a lead of 14 laps. But by the 319th lap it too was forced to retire owing to oil pressure issues. This meant that for the first time ever, in the history of the 24 hours of Le Mans an LMP2 car – the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca – was in the overall lead and Porsche’s hopes to finish the race hung by a thread.
But with 65 minutes to go, the #2 Porsche 919 snatched back the lead after fighting off the rest of the field and went on to win the race. The win marked the second overall win by Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber and the first ever win by Brendon Hatley. A rather bittersweet second overall was clinched by #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca driven by Ho-Pin Tung, Thomas Laurent and Oliver Jarvis while the final podium was occupied by the #13 Vaillante Rebellion Dunlop Oreca 07 driven by Nelson Piquet Jr, P David Heinemeier-Hansson and Mathias Beche.
Karun Chandhok finished 12th overall driving his #34 Tockwith Motorsport Ligier-Gibson prototype despite having a moment near the Porsche Chicanes in the early hours of the morning.
In the GTE Pro class, Jonny Adam claimed a fantastic victory for the Aston Martin team as he snatched the lead from the #63 Corvette that suffered an unexpected tyre blowout on the third to last lap. The GTE AM class was won by JMW Motorsport Ferrari.
This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was a spectacle to behold, with its twists and turns, a glorious victory and a bittersweet ending it was everything that the 24 Hours of Le Mans stands for, pure racing.
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